The Grady Sizemore that fantasy owners fell in love with — the swift, slugging center fielder with perennial 30-30 potential — is gone. Microfracture surgery on Sizemore’s left knee, as well as a right knee contusion that put him back on the DL in May, has robbed the 28-year-old of his once-plus speed. But Grady’s wheels aren’t the only thing that’s missing in 2011: his previously superb strike-zone judgment is gone, too. Sizemore is doing a convincing Dave Kingman impression, slugging the ball when he makes contact but chasing pitches and punching out plenty in the process.
During his major league career, Sizemore has a near-11 percent walk rate, a 23 percent strikeout rate and an Isolated Power eclipsing .200. But in 2011, Sizemore’s pop is the only part of that equation that has remained the same. He has a .215 ISO, but he’s drawing walks less than six percent of the time while striking out in around 32 percent of his at-bats.
Not surprisingly, Sizemore is chasing far more pitches off the plate than he typically has. His outside swing rate is 30 percent this year, slightly above the major league average. Compare that figure to his previous years in the majors:
Sizemore’s outside swing rate, as a percentage of the major league average:
He hacked during an injury-shortened 2010, and he’s still swinging at out-of-zone pitches much more than he used to in 2011. At the same time, Sizemore’s contact rate has dipped to a career-low 71 percent this season. Fastballs, sliders, curveballs, changeups — it doesn’t matter. Sizemore is whiffing often:
It’s hard to say that Sizemore been unlucky, with a BABIP in the .290s. It’s just that all those extra Ks are killing his batting average, and those outside swings have put a big dent in his walk rate. Sizemore hasn’t been a terrible hitter this year, but a .226/.293/.441 line that’s exactly average once park and league adjustments are made isn’t what owners had in mind for the former superstar’s comeback season.
With Sizemore showing poor plate discipline and having yet to steal a base, his ownership rate has fallen under 70 percent in Yahoo leagues and sits in the mid-eighties in ESPN leagues. It’s possible that Sizemore is just rusty, and he’ll start to work the count better and make more contact in the months to come as he gets regular at-bats. Sizemore didn’t take a swing in the majors after mid-May last year, and his 2011 season started late and was interrupted by another DL stint. Given his medical record, however, regular ABs aren’t guaranteed.
Truth be told, he has to rediscover that patient approach and connect more often to stay relevant in fantasy leagues. Without steals, Sizemore needs walks and a decent batting average to retain value.
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